CAMPTI, Texas — Authorities in this rural community along the Texas-Louisiana line say they believe they have solved a bizarre decade-old prison escape and abduction case. But at least one knowledgeable observer believes the cops have been bamboozled.
Neighbors say they knew something wasn’t quite right about Richard and Samantha “Sam” Deahl, who moved in about five years ago to run a few chicken houses.
It turns out they were onto something.
Richard was really Randolph Dial, a convicted killer from Oklahoma who escaped from prison nearly 11 years ago. And Samantha was really Bobbi Parker, the wife of the prison’s assistant warden who says she was held captive all along.
A tip generated by the TV show “America’s Most Wanted” led law enforcement to the mobile home where Dial was arrested Monday, said FBI agent Salvador Hernandez. Parker was found a short time later working at a chicken farm. She told police that she stayed with the killer out of fear her family would be harmed if she fled.
‘I was a hostage-taker’
“I was a hostage-taker and will probably live to regret it,” Dial told reporters on Tuesday. “But now I don’t. Doing a life sentence, at my age, I wouldn’t trade it for the past 10 1/2 years.”
On Tuesday, Parker, 42, was reunited with her husband as authorities tried to piece together details of the strange case. “It looked like a husband and wife who hadn’t seen each other in 11 years,” Texas Ranger Tom Davis of the emotional reunion.
The Parkers have two daughters, who were 8 and 10 at the time of the disappearance. The family still lives in Oklahoma, where the escape occurred.
Tanya Joy Parker, the sister of Randy Parker, said the children did not make the trip to Texas. “They are elated, but after 10 years you’d be a little stunned,” she said.
Sheriff Newton Johnson initially said Bobbi Parker wanted to stay on the chicken farm, but Hernandez said this was a misinterpretation. Hernandez said that while it is unusual for someone to be held against one’s will for so long, it is not unprecedented.
“There have been cases of this kind and typically this will result when someone believes family members might be in danger,” Hernandez said.
Escapee says threats were empty
Dial, 60, also told reporters that he held Parker against her will.
“She was living under the impression if she ever tried to get away, I would get away and I would make her regret it, particularly toward her family,” he said. “I didn’t mean it, but she didn’t know that.”
He said his relationship with Parker was never romantic and that they lived in separate rooms. He likened Parker’s relationship to him as Stockholm Syndrome, where kidnapping victims become sympathetic to their captors over time, often out of fear of violence.
But many in the rural community aren’t buying that explanation.
“She didn’t seem like she was in no fear for her life or anything like that,” said Patti Hall, who managed a convenience store where the couple bough beer, cigarettes, gas and groceries. “She didn’t slip me a note to call the sheriff or anything. She was just one of the chicken folks.”
And Charles W. Sasser, a former Tulsa, Okla., homicide detective who wrote a book about Dial’s case, said that contact he had with the fugitive and Parker in 2001 leads him to believe that the story is smokescreen.
Fugitive attended book signing
Sasser and Shelby County Chief Deputy Kent Shaffer told the Associated Press that Dial drove to Oklahoma several years ago to attend a book signing of “At Large,” Sasser’s book about his case.
After reading it, Dial called Sasser in 2001 to tell him he “got it right,” according to the author.
Sasser said he also spoke to Parker at the time and heard nothing to suggest she was being held against her will.
“I don’t believe it,” he said of the long-running abduction. “I spoke to her and told her to call her children.”
The FBI tried to trace the phone call at the time, but was unable to determine where it originated.
Agents are continuing to question Bobbi Parker in Texas.
Residents of Campti say the pair kept to themselves over the years, never engaged in any personal conversations and avoided going to the nearby town of Center. Their trailer is secluded, near a red dirt road and sitting on a wooded lot across from five long metal chicken houses.
“We just thought they might have a couple of warrants or something,” said Renae Almaguer, who once worked at the convenience store. She said she told co-workers “something ain’t right with them people.”
Woman looked like she was in disguise
When Parker, who was known to neighbors as “Sam,” did go to town to shop at the main grocery store, she wore a straw gardener’s hat — pulled tightly to her head with a scarf — and a baggy dress, Almaguer said. She said people would laugh at how she looked, as if she was in disguise
Dial, a sculptor and painter, was convicted of the 1981 murder of a karate instructor. He had obtained trusty status at the Oklahoma State Reformatory, and he ran an inmate pottery program with Bobbi Parker and had access to the couple’s home during the day in staff housing on prison grounds.
Bobbi Parker’s mother received a phone call from her the night of the 1994 disappearance traced to Hurst, Texas. “I can’t talk now,” she said, crying. “I’m OK. Tell the kids I’ll see them soon.”
A day later, she made a second call, this time from Fort Worth to a friend. It was the last message her family got from her. “Tell the kids I love them and I’ll be home soon,” she said.
That was the last time her family heard from her until this week.
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